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The Walking Dead, Season 3, Episode 9: “The Suicide King”
Written by Evan T. Reilly
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC
Coming off some of the strongest episodes in the show’s history, The Walking Dead returned from its mid-season hiatus, to a disappointingly, bearish B movie quality. That’s a big surprise given writer Evan T. Reilly, one of the better minds in the show’s army of writers, was assigned duties. Minus a few quieter moments with Carol (Melissa McBride), neither director Lesli Linka Glatter, nor the remaining cast, knew quite how to handle the character dynamics. Plagued with histrionics, strange character motivations and haunted by a Corpse Bride, “The Suicide King” weaves unevenly between action and drama, while desperately trying to propel the story along. The Walking Dead is as unpredictable and schizophrenic as its lead Rick Grimes. What at times seems one of the most disappointing shows on television quickly turns into the most promising, and back again. Unpredictability is good, keeping viewers on edge, but not when the actions of the characters constantly contradict everything we know about them. Its clear that the constant switch of show-runners, between what has only been, three very short seasons, has had drastic effect on the series. With yet another turnaround behind the scenes, and Glen Mazzara, the man who replaced Frank Darabont as showrunner, now soon to be replaced himself, The Walking Dead may be running out of hope in ever reaching its full potential. The specifics behind the scenes is unclear, though Mazzara has stated that he and the network disagreed about how to move the show forward. How about everyone focus on the now? “The Suicide King”, despite it’s clever metaphor, was anything but good. The Governor does something appalling, Andrea runs to his side, Michone continues to not speak, zombies chase, heroes shoot, brains explode, Rick sees dead people. Rinse and repeat.
With a nail-biter opening that pit the Dixons brothers against one another, in a gladiatorial battle surrounded by a mob of terrible extras, “The Suicide King” seemed to be on the right track. Fans finally got an answer to the burning question of what would happen when Merle and Daryl were finally reunited. Rescuing Merle Dixon opened up a huge can of worms, which could have been interesting to see played out. Unfortunately the group did what they do best, and quarrelled for about ten minutes before parting ways. Thankfully Glenn’s transformation into a bitchin’ warrior continues this week. However Glenn’s anger management comes attached to some emotional baggage; as he maybe fears he’s quickly slipping away from his masculine core. Perhaps Glenn has always felt a need to demonstrate his leadership abilities, and if so, it can’t feel good knowing he’s helpless to save his girlfriend when in danger. Steven Yuen has gotten increasingly impressive in his role and Glenn’s character growth is much welcomed. When Glenn and Maggie are at the forefront, the show is at it’s best. Anyone else want to see Glenn take Rick’s place as leader?
A reversal of gender roles could make the second half of season three far more interesting, but the depiction of Michonne and Andrea continues to frustrate. Anyone who’s read the original source material, can testify that their comic book counterparts are far more interesting. However, it becomes difficult to root for these two women, who are both, so unwilling to help themselves. But there could be hope. The attack on Woodbury left the townsfolk in a panic, the defences broken, the Governor nowhere to be found, and Andrea left to take charge. Yes she continues to choose to stay by the side of a raging mad man who collects severed heads and stuffs them inside an aquarium as souvenirs, but at least Andrea’s holding the fort.
Modern playing cards are filled with layers of meaning and symbology that can be traced back centuries. The four kings, for example, are based off of real rulers: Hearts represents the emotionally disturbed, Charles VII of France who under the pressure of sickness and fever, went mad. So let’s address the giant elephant in the room. Rick first showed signs of a mental breakdown, back in “Hounded,” when Hershel caught him talking to a now-dead Lori over a broken phone-line. At the time, one would assume he was simply dealing with the gruesome death of his wife. But in retrospect, Rick has slowly become darker in nature, ever since the murder of his best friend Shane, way back in season two. Now for a show which has a premise that revolves around the dead coming back to life and feeding on the flesh of the living, images of supernatural forces, even if imagined by a character, shouldn’t feel out of place – but they do. The ending of “The Suicide King” was unintentionally funny, and perhaps the funniest moment of the entire series to date, but not in a good way. Clearly Rick is suffering from more than just remorse. Could it be possible that his best friend Walsh became infected with something that drove him to the brink of insanity, and if so, who’s to say that the very same ailment hasn’t infected Rick? Is Rick simply losing his cool and buckling down under the immense amount of stress? Is there a supernatural element at play? Is is possible that the virus, which we now know everyone is infected with, can cause various side effects, including hallucinations? Whatever the reason, an American Horror-style set piece, is perhaps not the best approach to flesh out this sort of character development.
I have some trepidation about the future of a show that changes show-runners so often. To be fair, “The Suicide King” was still entertaining, and if anything, it set the stage for Tyreese, who’s bound to become a major player.
“I must be the first brother in history to break into prison.” – Tyreese
Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward made a cameo as one of the Biters who managed to sneak their way into town.
No need to comment on Darryl. He isn’t going very far and will be back soon.
Don’t forget to listen to our Walking Dead podcast for my speculation on the future of the show and thoughts on this episode.